The Voice of Hayley Westenra

I first heard Hayley Westenra (b. 1987) back in 2003 when she was all of fifteen years old.  I knew then she would be a major talent in the classical crossover realm as her voice is simply mesmerizing.  From New Zealand, Westenra crosses many styles, such as classical, folk and pop, and performs songs in a multitude of languages from English, to Latin, Celtic, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, German and French.  Westenra’s album Pure, released in 2003, has sold millions of copies and made her an international superstar.

Here is Westenra with a vocals only Amazing Grace, which highlights the beauty of her voice unadorned with instrumentation.

Here she is performing Pie Jesu live when she was 15!  You will be amazed.

A bit of pure opera here, with Westenra singing O Mio Babbino Caro.

Lastly, a less famous song, but I have always loved her singing Never Saw Blue.

Her latest album, Paradiso, was released in April of this year (coming in October in the U.S.).  At only 23, I am looking forward to many more years of vocals coming from Westenra.

5 thoughts on “The Voice of Hayley Westenra

  1. Her voice and range are indeed incredible. However, her rendition of ‘O Mio
    Babbino Caro’ illustrates why having a magnificent voice is not sufficient alone to become a great opera singer. Her ‘interpretation’ is non-existent and she sings this too slowly, at a metronomic pace without any emotion.

    For comparison purposes, listen to a YouTube clip posted by ‘niss26an50′ showing Maria Callas singing this in 1955 with Georges Pretre conducting. Her pace is faster, more anxious, and her phrasing is impeccable. After all, this is a young woman pleading for her father’s approval to marry the young man she loves. Although several sopranos had equal or better voices, no one could convey the emotional content or interpret a role as Callas did. She truly personified the Italian expression: “Opera is life” and as you listen to her sing this she is entirely believable as a vulnerable young woman, deeply in love, pleading with her father. Hayley Westenra is not. In fact, if you were unfamiliar with “O Mio Babbino Caro’ you would not have a clue as to what Westenra was singing about.

    1. Almost unfair to compare anyone to Callas…I love Westenra’s voice and I adore her work in the crossover stuff (ala Sarah Brightman type songs, duets with Bocelli, Groban, etc.) — like many crossover artists, when getting into ‘pure’ opera they sometimes lack the overall skill of the greats (and so I agree with your comment that a great voice is not enough for opera). Compared to most rubbish today, I am thrilled there are people like Westenra, Charlotte Church, etc., that actually pull in lots of people to a musical style they would otherwise never listen to. I am guessing in a setting more appropriate, she would perhaps be able to do a better job displaying the emotional context….but, she is not an opera singer per se, just a damn good crossover artist with a magical voice. Thanks for the tip on that Callas video, any other great ‘classic’ opera video’s on You Tube that you particularly like? BTW, I really enjoy your comments on the arts and now music, you really simply to be hugely knowledgable and appreciate you chiming in for the rest of us to learn!

      1. Thank you for your very kind comments. I greatly enjoy your reviews and descriptions of books you have read and acquired and have put several on my immediate ‘hit list’.

        YouTube is truly a marvel and once the garbage is filtered out (i.e, the never-ending stream of nincompoops seeking their 15 minutes of infamy) there is a treasure trove of vintage clips that are of immense interest to me, specifically, historical footage of significant events and people of the 20th century and recordings of classical and jazz performances from the greatest artists of the past century. The Callas clip is exemplary in this regard. This recital occurred early in her career before Callas battled weight problems, personal/emotional problems in her life outside of the concert hall, deterioration of her voice, etc. This is pure Callas, a young singer with a gorgeous voice and an unequalled ability to bring her character to life for her audience. She was called ‘La Divina’ for good reason.

        I will be happy to chime in from time to time with brief posts of several magnificent (imho) YouTube videos of classical performances by great artists if this does not interfere with or detract from your wonderful literary and oenophilic blog.

        Please advise.

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